Nov 3 (Reuters) – Many teams head for the World Cup more in hope than expectation but Denmark can point to previous occasions when they have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and say that they are genuinely in with a shout of winning the trophy.

This, after all, is the nation that was only admitted to Euro 92 in Sweden at the last minute following the exclusion of the former Yugoslavia. They went on to win it.

In more recent times, it is the team that bounced back from the traumatic loss of talisman Christian Eriksen to a heart attack in their Euro 2020 opener against Finland, only to miraculously get out of their group and make it all the way to the semi-finals where they narrowly lost to England.

Since taking the reins in 2020, Kasper Hjulmand has the Danish national team playing a breathtaking style of attacking football that blends individual brilliance with a rock-solid organisation that will be hard to beat in Qatar.

The hallmark of his team is the kind of intelligence and tactical flexibility that is invaluable in the cauldron of tournament football, coupled with a desire for continuous improvement.

“For me, it’s all about the quality of the players and putting the team together in a way so we can compete in different ways against different opponents,” Hjulmand told Reuters in a pre-World Cup interview.

“We must always try to improve every aspect of the game … we have some principles, very clear principles, on defending the last 20 metres of the pitch but we would like to be more dominant in some games,” he added.

They could hardly have been more dominant in qualifying, blazing their way to nine straight wins to qualify directly for the finals before a 2-0 defeat to Group F runners-up Scotland.

The teak-tough quartet of centre backs Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen and midfielders Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg protects a world class keeper in Kasper Schmeichel, whose father kept goal for the victorious 1992 side.

Around them are the attacking talent of the recovered and rejuvenated Eriksen, marauding wing-back Joakim Maehle, tricky wingers Andreas Skov Olsen and Mikkel Damsgaard, and dependable strikers such as Martin Braithwaite and Kasper Dolberg.

The Danes will contest Group D against Tunisia, France and Australia and, having already beaten world champions France twice in their recent Nations League campaign, they will enter the tournament with their dream of winning it very much alive.

Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris

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